Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called poverty the greatest threat facing Latin America as he and the leaders of Spain, Colombia and Brazil, agreed to join forces in to stamp out widespread poverty, prevent terrorism and work for peace.
“Poverty is the biggest threat here,” said Chavez, flanked by Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe as the four leaders concluded a one-day summit at a retreat near the city of Puerto Ordaz.
The leaders issued a five-page declaration calling for action against the main causes of poverty such as debt relief for developing countries and the creation of an International Humanitarian Fund, which would be used to provide financial support to needy nations and help alleviate poverty.
In the declaration, Chavez, Zapatero, Uribe and Lula da Silva vowed to “co-ordinate efforts between our governments and those of other nations, as well as international organisations, to contribute to overcoming hunger and poverty”.
Uribe said poverty had contributed to Colombia’s decades-long civil war and appealed for international help in bringing peace to his country.
The Colombian president spoke of the thousands killed and kidnapped each year, and said some 600 members of the security forces were wounded last year by land mines laid out by the country’s biggest leftist rebel group.
“We won’t resolve a problem of that dimension without the help of our neighbours,” Uribe said.
Despite Uribe’s request for support in ending his nation’s ongoing armed conflict, there were no signs at the summit of any breakthrough in peacemaking in Colombia.
Chavez opened the talks by rejecting US allegations that his left-leaning government represents a threat to stability in Latin America.
“They accuse us of being a destabilisingg factor in the region,” said Chavez, who has come under criticism from US officials concerned over his alleged efforts to support undemocratic movements in the region.
Chavez said he hoped for a relation of respect with the US, adding that Washington has no reason to be concerned over Venezuela’s possible acquisition of ships and transport planes from Spain.
Spain is considering the sale of ships and transport planes to Venezuela and Colombia.
Chavez has championed Latin American unity as part of a vision for a “multipolar” world in which smaller nations unite to negotiate with the US and other world powers on more even terms.